Officials Look To Deter Fireworks, Dirt Bikes
Legislative solutions are being sought for two problems plaguing many urban areas – illegal fireworks and illegal dirt bikes.
The City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts passed a home rule petition to the state legislature seeking authority to immobilize the vehicles of people who drive around setting off fireworks.
Under the legislation, people ticketed for fireworks violations would have 74 days to pay up, or lose their ride, explained the bill’s sponsor City Councilor Victor Davila.
"I do believe that this legislation that I am working (on) together with the mayor will be a positive step to assuring quality of life," said Davila.
Last summer, the City Council voted to increase the fine for setting off fireworks to $300 -- the maximum state law allows.
During debate on his proposal, Davila said Springfield police recorded just over 300 fireworks complaints in 2019. Last year, it jumped to more than 3,300 complaints.
"I do fear, Mr President, year that after a year-and-a-half of being cooped up because of the pandemic that we are going to have an extremely active summer," said Davila.
Sean Walker, an investigator with the Springfield Fire Department’s Arson and Bomb Squad, said that in a densely populated city illegal fireworks pose a danger to life and property.
"People have been hurt," said Walker. "Houses over the years have been set on fire because of fireworks. It is a danger."
City Councilor Jesse Lederman said he and all his colleagues on the Council have had countless calls complaining about fireworks from parents with young children unable to sleep, people with pets frightened by the noise, and veterans suffering from PTSD.
"We're not talking about a couple of nights around the Fourth of July," Lederman said. "We are talking about continuous, ongoing real disruption to the quality of life and safety of neighborhoods across the city of Springfield."
Last year, Mayor Domenic Sarno proposed linking unpaid fireworks fines to registration and licensure renewals, but that idea died in a Council committee.
The problem of dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles being driven illegally on city streets is also getting another look from legislators.
City Councilor Orlando Ramos announced he plans to file an ordinance that would prohibit gas stations from supplying fuel to an off road vehicle if it is driven up to the pumps. And, Ramos, who is also a state legislator, has refiled a home rule bill that would let police seize a dirt bike, seek an ownership forfeiture order from a judge, and destroy the vehicle.
" They are putting people at risk all over the city," Ramos said. " We have to make sure we are making it as difficult as possible for them to operate and that we catch them whenever they do."
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood applauded the legislative attempts to crackdown on dirt bikes.
" And any other ordinances or any other avenues they can give us to keep the enforcement up so we don't deal with this all summer long," said Clapprood.
A joint operation by Springfield Police and Massachusetts State Police this week to target groups illegally operating off-road vehicles led to 17 arrests and 20 vehicle seizures, according to a press release from the Springfield Police Department.